The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Lieutenant Charles Pope VC 11th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2017.1.57
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 26 February 2017
Access Open
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Charis May, the story for this day was on Lieutenant Charles Pope VC 11th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

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Speech transcript

Lieutenant Charles Pope VC 11th Battalion, AIF
KIA 15 April 1917
Photograph: A02648

Story delivered 26 February 2017

Today we remember and pay tribute to Lieutenant Charles Pope VC.

Charles Pope was born on 5 March 1883 to William and Jane Pope at Mile End in London. He attended school in Navestock in Essex before migrating to Canada, where he worked for Canadian Pacific Railways before returning to England in 1906 and joining the Chelsea Metropolitan Police Force. Later that year he married Edith Mary Smith, and in the years after a son and a daughter were born to the couple.

In 1910 the Pope family migrated to Australia and settled in Perth. Charles was initially employed as a furniture salesman, but when the First World War began he was working as an insurance agent.

Charles Pope enlisted for service with the AIF in late August 1915 and was commissioned with the rank of second lieutenant. He was allocated to the 18th reinforcements to the 11th Battalion and embarked aboard the transport ship Suevic from Fremantle in early June 1916. In England he underwent a period of training before joining the 11th Battalion in France, where it spent most of December in the line near Flers. On Boxing Day 1916 Pope was promoted to lieutenant.

In February 1917 the German Army on the Somme began to withdraw to a strong, pre-prepared defensive line known to the allies as the Hindenburg Line. By April the 11th Battalion was in front-line positions forward of the village of Louverval. Expecting a German counter-attack, the battalion had placed outposts forward of their main line, and the platoons were told to hold these posts at all costs. Lieutenant Pope and his platoon occupied the centre outpost.

On the night of 14 April, the German forces attacked. During the fighting the right flank of the 11th Battalion was pushed back, and Pope’s platoon was surrounded. What happened next is perhaps best described by Pope’s citation for the Victoria Cross:

Lieutenant Pope, finding that he was running short of ammunition sent back for further supplies. But the situation culminated before it could arrive, and in the hope of saving the position, this very gallant Officer was seen to charge with his picquet into a superior force, by which it was overpowered. By his sacrifice Lt. Pope, not only inflicted heavy loss on the enemy, but obeyed his order to hold the position to the last. His body, together with those of most of his men, was found in close proximity to eighty enemy dead – a sure proof of the gallant resistance which had been made.

The bodies of Pope and many of his men were later recovered among those of 80 German soldiers. Several other members of Pope’s platoon were later found to have been taken prisoner.

Pope was buried in the Moeuvres Communal Cemetery Extension near Louverval. He was 34 years old. On 8 June the London Gazette announced that he had been awarded the Victoria Cross.

Charles Pope’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among more than 60,000 others from the First World War. His photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Lieutenant Charles Pope VC, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Lieutenant Charles Pope VC 11th Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)